• Tips gratefully accepted here. Thanks!:

  • Recent Comments

    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Who gets their stuff?
    lateblum on Who gets their stuff?
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Who gets their stuff?
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Who gets their stuff?
    William on Who gets their stuff?
    alibe50 on OooOOOoooo, Snap! That’s going…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Who gets their stuff?
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Who gets their stuff?
    riverdaughter on Who gets their stuff?
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Who gets their stuff?
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Who gets their stuff?
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on Who gets their stuff?
    Niles on Who gets their stuff?
    William on Who gets their stuff?
    William on Who gets their stuff?
  • Categories


  • Tags

    abortion Add new tag Afghanistan Al Franken Anglachel Atrios bankers Barack Obama Bernie Sanders big pharma Bill Clinton cocktails Conflucians Say Dailykos Democratic Party Democrats Digby DNC Donald Trump Donna Brazile Economy Elizabeth Warren feminism Florida Fox News General Glenn Beck Glenn Greenwald Goldman Sachs health care Health Care Reform Hillary Clinton Howard Dean John Edwards John McCain Jon Corzine Karl Rove Matt Taibbi Media medicare Michelle Obama Michigan misogyny Mitt Romney Morning Edition Morning News Links Nancy Pelosi New Jersey news NO WE WON'T Obama Obamacare OccupyWallStreet occupy wall street Open thread Paul Krugman Politics Presidential Election 2008 PUMA racism Republicans research Sarah Palin sexism Single Payer snark Social Security Supreme Court Terry Gross Texas Tim Geithner unemployment Wall Street WikiLeaks women
  • Archives

  • History

    June 2019
    S M T W T F S
    « May    
     1
    2345678
    9101112131415
    16171819202122
    23242526272829
    30  
  • RSS Paul Krugman: Conscience of a Liberal

  • The Confluence

    The Confluence

  • RSS Suburban Guerrilla

  • RSS Ian Welsh

    • Why Would Iran Attack Tankers?
      Well, if it did. Let me tell a story, possibly apocryphal. Back in the 70s the Russian (USSR) ambassador supposedly had a talk with the Pakistaini leader of the day. This is what he is reputed to have said. ” I do not know who will be in charge in Moscow in ten, twenty or […]
  • Top Posts

  • Advertisements

Magical thinking is not limited to Fundamentalist Christians:apostates on the left

Derek Lowe at In the Pipeline found this confession of  former anti-GMO activist Mark Lynas:

I want to start with some apologies. For the record, here and upfront, I apologise for having spent several years ripping up GM crops. I am also sorry that I helped to start the anti-GM movement back in the mid 1990s, and that I thereby assisted in demonising an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment.

As an environmentalist, and someone who believes that everyone in this world has a right to a healthy and nutritious diet of their choosing, I could not have chosen a more counter-productive path. I now regret it completely.

. . .(This was) explicitly an anti-science movement. We employed a lot of imagery about scientists in their labs cackling demonically as they tinkered with the very building blocks of life. Hence the Frankenstein food tag – this absolutely was about deep-seated fears of scientific powers being used secretly for unnatural ends. What we didn’t realise at the time was that the real Frankenstein’s monster was not GM technology, but our reaction against it. . .

. . .desperately-needed agricultural innovation is being strangled by a suffocating avalanche of regulations which are not based on any rational scientific assessment of risk. The risk today is not that anyone will be harmed by GM food, but that millions will be harmed by not having enough food, because a vocal minority of people in rich countries want their meals to be what they consider natural.

[…]

Lynas concludes that people who want to stick with organic are entitled to—but they should not stand in the way of others who would use science to find more efficient ways to feed billions. “[T]he  GM debate is over. It is finished. We no longer need to discuss whether or not it is safe. … You are more likely to get hit by an asteroid than to get hurt by GM food,” he says.

Now, I don’t think Lynas is advocating that we just give GMO stuff a pass and never test it or monitor its effects, because that would be reckless.  But Lynas does seem to have taken the time to understand what the heck he was talking about and once he understood GMO, he lost his irrational fear of it.  It’s still ok to have rational fear.

He’s also had a change of heart about nuclear energy and now believes that it may be one of the most sensible solutions to global warming.

Lynas: It’s blindingly obvious, actually, and I don’t know why it took me so long. The current deployment of nuclear power worldwide of 430 reactors reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 2 billion tons per year. And that really is the beginning and the end of the argument if you’re in the slightest bit concerned about global warming. And all of the oft-stated green objections to nuclear power are either urban myths or an order of magnitude less important than global climate change.

Does that mean he’s onboard with all nuclear power plants built willy-nilly in any configuration on any active fault?  No.  It means he is open to the idea of modern nuclear power using new technologies and to a rigorous regulatory process.  Rigorous does not mean strangulation.

As you can imagine, he’s not popular with some of the left’s most ardent activists.  Apostates rarely are.  Apostates have moved beyond faith to inquiry and evidence.

As someone who grew up in one of the least rational religious cults out there, I can see a lot of similarities between the anti-GMO, anti-nuke, anti-vacc crew and the glassy eyed, Watchtower bearing door knockers.  I can’t take either set seriously.  It’s hard to reason with people who are committed to a point of view regardless of the evidence or the damage they are doing to their own cause.  It would be great if more people on the left would follow Lynas’ example because right now, it’s easy to ignore the lefty activists.  They’re not doing environmentalism any good.  To some of us on the left, such as myself, the anti-GMO, anti-nuclear energy crowd is as embarrassing, nutty and non-productive as the Tea Partiers are to the right.  It’s one of the reasons I will never vote Green.

I’m sure this post will bring offend many people who are adamant about their beliefs and have a bunch of silly papers to prove it but up until now, I’ve found them unconvincing.  You are entitled to your own beliefs but not your own facts.  But there are people on the left who have made a career and an industry out of belief based environmentalism just like there are televangelists hawking their latest faith healing.  You might as well be trying to prove the existence of Noah’s ark in the mountains of Turkey.

Advertisements

Sunday: Nukes in the News

Once again, our news media does not fail to disappoint.  It’s not enough to revel in the mass destruction caused by a supersized earthquake and mega tsunami.  No, now we must wait with breathless anticipation for the catastrophic Chernyobal style nuclear fuel meltdown that is *sure* to follow.  As plutoniumpage said cynically last night on Twitter, Mothra has been sighted off the east coast of Japan.  I blame the entertainment industry.  Hollywood has made one too many Armageddon genre movies in recent years.  We seem disappointed that the waves weren’t bigger, the cracks in the earth didn’t swallow skyscrapers whole and the nuclear meltdown isn’t turning the night sky neon green.

Actually, this is one end-of-the-world scenario that is probably *not* keeping my mother up all night.  Full disclosure: my dad was a nuclear reactor maintenance specialist.  Trained by the Navy and having spent several years at a reactor research facility in upstate New York, he was recruited by Three Mile Island after the accident to put their remaining undamaged reactor online and maintain it.

So, while I’m not an expert, I don’t have an irrational fear of nuclear energy.  I just have a healthy respect for it.  Despite that, I wouldn’t build one in the US right now but I’ll get to that in a sec.

Some of the things we should think about when reading the news accounts of the problem in Japan are common sense but we tend to forget them when there’s a good story, which is what the media is flogging right now.  Here’s some of the ones that popped into my mind:

1.) Whether or not the Japanese government is lying about the seriousness and extent of the damage to the reactor, it’s going to be very difficult to maintain a lie for very long.  International monitoring systems are going to ferret out the truth pretty shortly.   Radiation gets picked up by the atmosphere and circulates the globe in surprising ways.  If there’s an unholy amount of radiation from these plants, we’re going to know about it very soon.

2.) When the media reports that the radiation levels are measuring 1000x what is normal, ask yourself, “relative to what?”  How many zeros precede or follow the decimal point?  What are the units?  The media has been very bad a reporting this stuff.  A number is meaningless without context.  I’m not saying that the risk is small, mostly because I don’t know and no amount of radiation exposure in excess of allowable limits should be considered “safe”, especially for fetuses.  All I’m saying is that the media has failed to describe this amount of radiation in understandable human terms, like how many xrays is this equivalent to?  How much would make you sick?  How sick?  What’s the governmental limit in Japan vs the US?  Stuff like that.  If they aren’t elaborating on the numbers, then they’re just throwing big numbers around to keep viewers on the edge of their seats.

3.) What’s the difference between the Japanese reactor design and the one at Chernyobal or TMI? Which parts are affected?  Which parts were involved in yesterday’s explosion? Having some basic explanation and simple diagrams of how these style reactors work would help the audience understand the parameters and the risks of each.  While our American media doesn’t seem to be doing a very good job of this, there are other sources.  Also, plutoniumpage has been tweeting good resources and people knowlegeable in the field to follow.  If you want a calm, level headed resource and references to other knowledgeable nuke commenters, follow Page.

Here are some good places to get started:

Allthingsnuclear has updates on the Fukushima plants

The NRC explains how Boiling Water Reactors work in easy to digest text and diagrams

The NYTimes has an interactive feature of the Fukushima plants (well, the NYTimes isn’t getting worse).

So, here’s my perspective on these plants.  Yes, the situation is serious but a Chernyobal style meltdown is unlikely at any of them.  These plants have extensive containment systems that would prevent that.  That doesn’t mean a partial meltdown isn’t possible, and may have already happened.  But the world, and even Japan, isn’t going to come to an end.  From what I’ve read, it would be more in line with a TMI type event.  Radiation has been released and iodine has been distributed to people in the affected area.  It’s probably hard for the Japanese government to make a full assessment as to the extent of the exposure to the population in the area right now.  Until they do, the media is just speculating- wildly.

Ok, so why wouldn’t I build nuclear plants today.

First, let’s talk about the safety of these Fukushima plants.  They’ve come through a massive earthquake, giant tsunami and power failures.  The fact that there aren’t more serious problems at these plants after these events is a testament to their design and multiple redundancy backup systems.  Yep, their backup systems are experiencing problems right now but I think the Japanese have made the right call to flood one of the reactors with seawater even if it means losing it. Better to be safe than sorry.  Give them some credit.

While we do have many BWRs in the US, we haven’t built any new facilities in 30 years.  That’s because, as usual, Americans overreacted (no pun intended) to the TMI accident.  Americans seem to be predisposed to magnify problems where nuclear issues are concerned to a hyperbolic degree.  I don’t know if that’s because we who were children during the cold war are predisposed to have a Pavlovian response to the word nuclear or what exactly.  But whatever it is, we fail to discriminate and tend to treat everything with the word “nuclear” in it with extreme fear and loathing.  For example, what most average Americans call an MRI, Magnetic Resonance Imager, most chemists would call a NMRI, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Imager.  But if the medical community called it *that*, no one would get in the sucker.  So they dropped the nuclear bit from the name.

The truth is, nuclear energy in the US has a pretty impressive safety record.  It doesn’t matter if you’re on the left or the right, you are obligated to look at that record if you want to make your point.  Unfortunately, very few people on the left are capable of leaving their ideology aside where nuclear issues are concerned and actually LOOK at the numbers.  That’s not very rational.  NO, I am not a Republican.  I loathe Republicans.  But as a lefty, I have the right to criticize my tribe for their faith-based behavior.  When it comes to issues such as nuclear energy, pharmaceuticals and immunizations, the left can sometimes be as anti-intellectual as the right is about evolution and climate change.  We’re just as nutty as the right is.  It’s just that our issues are different.  Let’s stop flattering ourselves.

Nevertheless, nuclear energy is not something you want just anyone monkeying around with.  It’s genuinely dangerous when not used with the utmost attention to regulation, safety and design.  Of course, a reactor built today is going to have a much different design than one built 40 years ago.  We could and should expect advancements in technology to make them safer.

But in this business environment, with arrogant, smartass, MBAs running industries they know nothing about and trying to reduce everything to the bottom line, building a new nuclear reactor in the US, or anywhere else in the world for that matter, would be a recipe for disaster.  In fact, I’d be checking up on the ones we already have.  The nuclear industry must have regulation.  That doesn’t mean we have to be stuck with the regulations we have that are 40 years old or that regulations have to be so burdensome that nuclear power is too expensive to use.  It’s that regulation is necessary in this industry because it will make everyone more accountable and safer.

More than that though is that the nuclear power industry will have to rely on human beings to build, run, monitor and maintain the new reactors.  That means hiring experienced and well trained people of the highest integrity to do it and who approach their work with rigor and discipline.  You can’t cut corners with your plant operators and maintenance specialists.  These people have to be paid well and respected.  Don’t even think about reducing them to subsistence wages.  I don’t see the MBAs really understanding that concept.  They don’t seem to teach it at business school.  A human resource at a nuclear power plant is not just a number on a spreadsheet.  That person is an investment in safety and should be an expert, paid as well or better than some cheeky Wharton asshole sitting in an office somewhere.

So, until the business community gets that, I’m not in favor of building new nukes.  Maybe someday, when the oil crisis gets really serious and we’ve had it up to here with the speculators and the biz school grads, we can revisit this issue.  Maybe hire some experienced Navy nuke experts to run things and replace the “smartest guys in the room”. I won’t hold my breath.

In the meantime, let’s maintain a healthy fear and skepticism and turn our focus to the survivors of the devastating natural events in Japan.  This is not entertainment.

Wednesday: His penis didn’t drop off

At the risk of sounding like an echo chamber, I’m reprinting this comment from MABlue that Edgeoforever at Not Your Sweetie found at our site:

“Why is this guy never supposed to do anything, take any position or win a debate before being declared the winner?”

“Obama still has the main characteristics that led me to support him. He didn’t drop dead during the debate, which means he still has a pulse. His penis didn’t drop off during the debate,which means it’s still attached. I don’t have any other real requirements, he can eat puppies onstage for all I care.”–the punditry

Oh, I don’t know if those are the only requirements but it does appear at times that the media has beer googles where Obama is concerned.

Neither of the remaining candidates is the one I would have chosen to be president.   The one *I* wanted, indeed, much of the country wanted, was taken away from us.  The media should be on notice.  We aren’t going to forget its part in sidelining Hillary for a long, long time. But Obama most certainly did NOT win that debate last night.  McCain had a slight edge over Obama for one reason- he took risks.

McCain was as forthcoming as he could be without pissing people off.  My Friends, the government of George W. Bush has been so successful at achieving the Conservative Movement’s goals that pissing people off is the inevitable outcome for the forseeable future.  We are royally screwed nine times til Sunday.  As Dakinikat said last night, if you have a job, consider yourself lucky and hang onto it.  It’s going to get rough, maybe rougher than we’ve ever known in our lives.  There are some social safety net programs that will need to be restructured.  Social Security can probably get by with a tweak with no restructuring, assuming the economy recovers in some not too distant future.  Medicare is the juggernaut that will do us in if we’re not proactive about fixing it.  We need to curb our dependence on foreign sources of energy and reduce greenhouse gases.  That means we have to seriously consider nuclear energy.  McCain was right to introduce these subjects during the debate because they are very serious and we can’t turn our heads and pretend that “Hope!” and “Change!” are going to fix things.

I didn’t hear Barack Obama go out on a limb for anything.  His healthcare proposals are better than McCain’s but that’s because they are rip offs of Hillary’s.  McCain copied Hillary on the HOLC proposal.  I give McCain points but not Obama because McCain really *is* bucking his party’s position on HOLC where Obama is not taking a risk on healthcare.  For Obama, it’s a safe position to take.  Healthcare is not likely to get addressed in the next administration anyway.  Why is that?  Because there’s no money.  At least John McCain is putting  the horse before the cart by trying to solve the economic crisis at its roots.  Solving the mortgage crisis is an essential but currently missing portion of digging ourselves out of the financial meltdown that is going to ruin our economy.  Obama barely mentioned it in passing.

But it hardly matters that McCain’s approach seems to be more practical especially given the parameters he will be working with.  Obama has a penis and it did not fall off.  It stayed attached and that’s all that matters.  We will lower the standards for him like we have done all primary season like a game of bumper bowling.  He simply can not miss.  We who were subjected to that incoherent rambling style and find it free of substance will be declared racists for not appreciating the impact of his historic candidacy, the beauty of his mere presence on that stage where no one like him has ever been before.

But it is the spirit of Hillary Clinton hovering over both candidates that I feel most acutely.  Both candidates make reference to her.  We shouldn’t look back or regret what has happened.  We should only look forward.  Yes, she would have made a better debater, policy maker and president.

Alas, she did not have a penis.

More on the debate and the economic crisis can be found in this post at Anglachel (here’s hoping she has recovered from her psychogenic fugue.)